A discussion on German cycling: Thomas Herzog, Managing Director of Pendix, and Ernst Brust, founder of the renowned testing institute Velotech.
44 days ago
The recent interview covers themes such as Made in Germany, the e-bike boom, and LEVA-EU member Pendix.
Racing, cargo, or recumbent bike? How do industry professionals such as yourself get around?
Thomas Herzog: I recently bought a kind of modern Dutch bike from one of our partners. I like the idea behind it. The Dutch company Roetz collects dead bikes from the streets and dismantles them; individual parts are recycled, and the frames are sandblasted and repainted. This is upcycling at its best. Every bike is unique. A little bit retro, a little bit modern, and above all sustainable.
Ernst Brust: I have a small fleet of bicycles in the basement. Right now, I prefer riding my folding bike, which is ideal for the city. Even with it being so small, there is still room for a Pendix drive; at my age, it’s sometimes necessary! But of course, I have more bikes: one cargo bike, and several racing bikes. The one I ride depends on the situation.
The bicycle industry is booming. More bikes are sold every year. What do you think about this development?
Ernst Brust: Well, for me as a bicycle enthusiast it is of course fantastic. I find the development extremely exciting, and I am always amazed at the technological progress in terms of safety. In the 1950s and 60s, the evolution of bicycles came to a standstill because everyone was only interested in cars. Then in the 1980s, innovations slowly came along like mountain bikes with sprung wheel forks and aluminum wheels. At the beginning of my career, I would see bicycles where, for example, the screws were not subject to any standard, which would be unthinkable today. And now ABS systems are being developed to further increase security.
Thomas Herzog: We don’t want to forget the environmental aspect either. Climate change is a reality. Anyone who rides a bicycle can do their part to ensure that future generations can still enjoy our planet. Today there is a suitable bike for everyone, regardless of whether it is powered by pure muscle power or by electric power. E-bikes and normal bicycles are now almost level in sales. Of course, I don’t believe that e-bikes will completely replace conventional bikes, they are too popular in the sporting field, but for those who use wheels as a means of purpose, i.e. to get comfortably from A to B, I can see e-bikes remaining a big hit.
Does it always have to be ‘Made in Germany’ for you?
Ernst Brust: The term is difficult. A modern bike consists of so many individual parts – for every screw, every spring, and every coil to be made in Germany is impossible. I don’t know of a single company where all components are completely sourced from Germany. Made in Europe would be a better fit. When it comes to bikes from other parts of the world, I’m mostly suspicious if I don’t know the manufacturer. There are good and bad companies everywhere, so I wouldn’t generally judge the quality of a bike by its country of origin. In general, I always recommend getting advice and if in doubt, spending a few euros more. If you buy cheap, you often buy twice. Unfortunately, the saying is true all too often.
Thomas Herzog: I can confirm that I always pay attention to quality, including for Pendix products. Wherever possible, we rely on regional suppliers. This is also the reason that we are based in Zwickau – here we benefit from synergies with the VW plant. Of course, they cannot work without international partners, this has advantages and disadvantages. Supply chains are now longer than they were in the past. So, we need more advanced planning, and the quality must not suffer. For me, the Made-in-Germany principle regards actual production. It is about the selection of high-quality components, the shortest possible delivery routes, and fair working conditions. This creates a quality product.
In October 2022, the Johnson Electric Group from Hong Kong joined Pendix as a strategic partner. Has the alignment changed anything?
Thomas Herzog: No, definitely not. Johnson Electric has similar quality standards to ours. It was clear to us from the start that we would only make such a step with a partner on an equal footing and with the same goals. Johnson Electric is a global company, and our cooperation makes it easier for us to access raw materials and components but nothing changes in the processes. We continue to produce in Wilkau, work together with our long-standing partners, and will continue to deliver the usual Pendix quality in the future.
Finally, a look into the crystal ball: Will Germany develop into a cycling country?
Ernst Brust: As far as the industry is concerned, yes, the car is out. Since Driving in inner cities is becoming less and less fun, the number of cyclists is likely to increase automatically. A lot of people from the automotive industry are moving to bicycle manufacturing because they see future potential there. And for many newcomers, the bicycle business is now the first choice for many engineers.
I still see a lot of room for improvement in transport planning, countries like Holland or Norway currently have a clear lead. Municipalities should invest in, for example, more Covered cycle paths which are still a rarity here.
Thomas Herzog: I think we’re on the right track, but such developments need time. Many people no longer use their bikes only when the weather is good or for tours, but as a means of transport in any season. People ride to work, go shopping, and even on vacation. It is an attitude to life, a lifestyle.
Also, in the field of micromobility – i.e. the so-called last mile – everything is on the rise. Where suppliers used to be on congested streets, cargo bikes are increasingly on the road today. In my eyes, this one trend will continue to increase, the golden years of the bicycle have only just begun.